An Owasso man accused in a series of attacks that police say targeted the homeless now faces a charge of violating Oklahoma’s hate crimes statute.
Jeremy Dean Thacker is charged with first-degree murder and nine related felonies. Authorities say he is responsible for the Sept. 4 death of Shawn Birdo and injuries to four other people, including Birdo’s girlfriend, Cynthia Wallace, by running over them in a pickup before fleeing.
The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday added a misdemeanor charge of committing malicious intimidation or harassment, commonly known as the state’s hate crimes law, after a racial element was introduced into evidence.
The count is based on the testimony of Eddie Walling — who at one point shared a Tulsa Jail pod with Thacker.
During Thacker’s preliminary hearing Nov. 30, Walling testified that Thacker had admitted being the man who “ran over all the homeless people.” He said Thacker told him he decided to run over Birdo and Wallace while they were asleep outside the John 3:16 Mission because he didn’t like seeing a black man with a white woman.
Defense attorney Brian Boeheim called Walling’s credibility into question during his cross-examination, saying Walling had an incentive to provide testimony against Thacker because he had his own criminal case pending in Tulsa County District Court. Walling conceded that he hoped to receive a lighter sentence.
Court records indicate that Walling has since pleaded no contest to assault with a dangerous weapon. He received a five-year suspended sentence in accordance with an agreement that mandates that he give truthful testimony in Thacker’s case.
Thacker is also accused of hitting a man with a metal pipe as the man was sitting on a park bench outside the downtown QuikTrip, running over a woman outside the QuikTrip and running over another man on North Cincinnati Avenue.
During the preliminary hearing, Assistant District Attorney Becky Johnson introduced into evidence surveillance images of a pickup hitting Birdo, Wallace and James Russell outside the John 3:16 Mission. She also played videos from the QuikTrip store near 15th Street and Denver Avenue that show a white pickup.
Thacker is charged with hitting a man, Jackie Morris, early Sept. 4 with a metal pipe while Morris was on a park bench outside the store before he went to the John 3:16 Mission, circled it at least twice and drove over people sleeping on the sidewalk.
Afterward, police said Thacker’s vehicle could be seen hopping a curb behind the QuikTrip the afternoon of Sept. 4, which was where a paramedic said he found Ramona Bennett had leg injuries consistent with her description of an auto-pedestrian collision.
One day earlier, Thacker reportedly ran over another man, Billy Alverson, in the same vehicle while Alverson was walking just south of Pine Street and Cincinnati Avenue. A detective said fibers from Alverson’s jacket were found in Thacker’s windshield, which had cracked from the impact.
Thacker was arrested at his Owasso residence Sept. 5 following information received in a CrimeStoppers tip, which in turn came in shortly after a passerby reported seeing a white pickup that matched the appearance of one Tulsa Police provided to the media for public release.
Thacker is scheduled for trial court arraignment Monday before District Judge Sharon Holmes.